An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Northwestern University have developed a new nanomanufacturing technique to create an optimal light-managing material for solar cells. According to a press release, the new production method could replace "trial-and-error nanomanufacturing and design methods," which can require extensive resources.

“We have bridged the gap between design and nanomanufacturing,” said Wei Chen, a professor of mechanical engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, in the release. “Instead of designing a structure element by element, we are now designing and optimizing it with a simple mathematic function and fabricating it at the same time.”

The team has tested their new method on ultra-thin, flexible solar cells, which are optimized when the nanostructure is made up of quasi-random structures that "appear random but do have a pattern."

“Light wavelengths have different frequencies, and we did not design for just one frequency,” Chen said of the team's solar experiment. “We designed for the whole spectrum of sunlight frequencies, so the solar cell can absorb light over broadband wavelengths and over a wide collection of angles.”

The team plans to apply this method to other materials, such as polymers, metals, and oxides.